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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and Junior Minister in the northern Executive, Declan Kearney MLA, has welcomed the commitment to tackling sectarianism in 'New Decade New Approach' document.

The South Antrim MLA said:

"Sectarianism is a cancer in our society. It remains the main obstacle to creating and achieving a cohesive and united community in the north.

"There is a huge responsibility and onus on all within public life, particularly those of us within political leadership, to do everything in our power to challenge and tackle sectarianism wherever it raises its head.

"There should be no tolerance of sectarianism, or any form of bigotry in our society.

"Sectarianism is an anathema to Irish republicanism.

"In successive negotiations over recent years, Sinn Féin has consistently argued the need for measures to place anti-sectarianism at the centre of the political institutions.

"In our party policy document 'One Community - Tackling the scourge of sectarianism in Irish society’, Sinn Féin proposed a number of measures aimed at tackling this issue, including the incorporation of an anti-sectarian pledge for all public representatives.

"I therefore very much welcome the inclusion of this particular proposal in the agreement.

"However, while tackling sectarianism has been included as a priority for the Executive, we now need to develop overarching strategies involving all Executive departments. Consistent political leadership will be required to achieve that from all parties.

"An agreed programme which combines a range of far-reaching measures, involving government, statutory agencies and civic society will be needed to generate an effective anti-sectarian momentum.

"Sinn Féin is absolutely committed to urgently pursuing this important element of 'New Decade New Approach' both in terms of Programme for Government implementation, and overall public policy."

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Sinn Féin Children and Youth Affairs Spokesperson Kathleen Funchion TD has pledged her party’s support for the Early Years sector Day of Action on Wednesday the 5th February.

The Carlow-Kilkenny TD said:

“With a General Election on the horizon, the crisis in the Early Years sector must be recognised as a major election issue by all parties.

“Early Years professionals deserve to be paid a decent wage in financially sustainable services. 

“SIPTU/Big Start, the Federation of Early Childhood Providers, the Association of Childhood Professionals, the National Community Childcare Forum and the National Childhood Network have convened an 'Early Years Alliance' to highlight the crisis in the sector and demand increased funding in the sector, better pay and recognition the profession deserves. 

“Many service providers will be closing for the day so that staff can attend.

“Staff, providers and parents will be marching to Dáil Eireann on Wednesday 5th February (assembly at 11.30 at Parnell Square, Dublin 1) to demand that the crisis be recognised urgently by this government and all General Election 2020 candidates.

“I have been campaigning tirelessly for improved working conditions and pay for all those working in this crucial sector for years. I will be walking in solidarity with all staff and service providers attending this important demonstration on February 5th” 

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Note to editor: For further information regarding the February 5th demonstration contact [email protected]

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Sinn Féin education spokesperson Karen Mullan has congratulated Peter Weir on his appointment as Education Minister and says she looks forward to working with him to progress a range of priority areas.

The Foyle MLA said:

“I want to congratulate Mr Weir on his appointment and wish him well in the time ahead.

“The appointment of an Education Minister means we can get on with the business of tackling the crisis within our education system.  

“I look forward to working constructively with him and the other parties as we attempt to progress important legislation and policy in the time ahead.

“Addressing the crisis in our school budgets, in Special Educational Needs provision, tackling disadvantage and resolving the ongoing industrial actions are areas I and my party want to see immediate action on. 

“Crucial to making progress in these areas will be the delivery of the substantial financial package as promised by the British Government.

“A decade of Tory austerity has starved the system of the funding and has led us to this crisis point and I will advance the work of tackling disadvantage as a priority.” 

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Sinn Féin's Equality Spokesperson, Emma Sheerin, has today welcomed the introduction of marriage equality to the north of Ireland.

Speaking on the issue, the Mid Ulster MLA commented:

“Today marks a momentous step for LGBTQ+ people across the north, as same-sex couples receive the long-awaited right to register to marry the person they love and finally have their relationships recognised as equal before the law. 

“This day is one to be celebrated and is a major milestone in the journey to full equality for all citizens on this island, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

“I would like to pay tribute to all those who campaigned for so long to demand equality, inclusion and fair treatment; today is theirs.

“The fight for marriage equality has been just one element in the struggle of the LGBTQ+ community, and although this is a massive achievement, we still have a way to go.

“Sinn Féin is determined to see government which works for everyone, that is our pledge for this mandate.”

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Sinn Féin MP John Finucane will travel to Washington DC and New York tomorrow to brief US political leaders and Irish-American supporters on the re-establishment of the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.

During the visit, the recently elected MP will address the Congressional Friends of Ireland on Capitol Hill and meet with representatives of the US administration. In New York he will speak at a public event organised by the New York Bar Council and the Brehon Law Society.  

The North Belfast MP said: 

"The US has been central to our peace process and to political progress in Ireland over many years. 

"The US Congress and Irish American community leaders have acted to protect the Good Friday Agreement at all times and continue to do so, particularly in the face of the threat presented by Brexit. 

"Their influence and continued support is valued and is vital as we face the continuing challenges of Brexit, re-establishing power-sharing government in the North and as we work to build a new and United Ireland.

"I will brief leaders on the recent negotiations, the agreement which has led to the re-establishment of the Executive and the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement and the challenges and opportunities of the future.” 

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Defence Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said the news that Irish peace-keepers will finally be given an alternative anti-malaria drug to Lariam, is a breakthrough but now work needs to be done to address the legacy of ill health and poor treatment of our Defence Forces who have suffered the consequences of having to take this drug.

Speaking this evening, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"Today's news that Irish Peacekeepers will be given an alternative anti-malaria drug to Lariam is to be strongly welcomed, and is a victory for the Action Lariam Irish Soldiers group and for those who served in our Defence Forces.

"For almost a decade, I have raised the dangerous and potentially fatal side effects associated with Lariam with successive Defence Ministers. The value and respect rightly accorded to Irish military personnel is reflected in their reception around the globe. However, the courageous peacekeeping duties they have undergone in some of the world's most dangerous conflict zones has not been reciprocated at home by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

"Nowhere is this more starkly illustrated than in the unnecessary delay to replace the anti-malaria drug Lariam with safer alternatives. It is over two years since the Sinn Féin motion to end the use of Lariam on our Defence Forces passed through the Dáil unopposed.

"By finally stopping the use of Lariam we are finally taking a step in the right direction of treating our Defence Forces with the dignity they deserve.

"The State should now take the next step by ensuring that all serving and retired Defence Forces personnel who have been given Lariam in the past and are affected since will be provided with proper health supports and counselling services to aid their recovery from the side-effects.”

"I want also commend those who campaigned and highlighted the effects of this drug for years."

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has called out the status-quo establishment politics of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, and their attempts to "freeze out" Sinn Féin from government.

Speaking this afternoon, Teachta McDonald said:

"Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are the political establishment. 

“They want to maintain the status-quo and they don’t want Sinn Féin in government because they know we will do things differently. 

“We will put people first; we will stand up for families, for workers and for communities.

"I reject the idea that Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin can dictate that we or our voters are not good enough for government.

"We will not be excluded.

"We have just appointed Ministers to the Executive in Belfast, and this has been welcomed by the same parties that want to exclude Sinn Féin from government in Dublin

"The hypocrisy of Leo Varadkar and his partner Micheál Martin is stunning. 

"In government, Sinn Féin would deliver the biggest public housing building programme in the history of the State, bring about real change in the health service, transform the childcare system and give families and workers a break. 

"We are the only party with a chance to make a real impact against the establishment politics of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in the next election, and we will demonstrate that throughout the upcoming election campaign."

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney has welcomed the inclusion of important advances for workers within the Programme for Government Sections of the New Decade New Approach Agreement.

 The South Antrim MLA said:

“I strongly welcome the important advances for workers contained in the proposed measures of the new Programme for Government (PFG).

"Sinn Féin sought to have workers’ rights prioritised throughout this process, and I am therefore pleased that good progress had been made.

"The references to banning Zero Hour Contracts, devolving Minimum Wage powers and making the Executive a Living Wage Employer are all key elements of Sinn Féin policy and were central recommendations in the workers rights policy "Towards a New Employment Model" which I launched in 2019.

"These commitments will go some way in providing a level of certainty and security to workers, particularly young employees and those in the retail and hospitality trades.

"Sinn Féin will ensure that these are acted on as soon as possible so that workers can benefit from real improvements to their lives.

"In addition Sinn Féin is fully committed to ensuring that the voice of the Trade Union Movement is heard by the power sharing Executive.

"We want to see greater input from Trade Unions in helping to shape the Industrial and other Economic Development Strategies contained in this PFG and in delivering improvements to workers’ rights, as well as stronger civic participation in the development of public policy during this Assembly mandate."

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD, speaking from Belfast on the resumption of the north's power-sharing institutions, has said that Sinn Féin welcome the significant steps forward that have been made to re-establish the institutions on the basis of equality, respect and integrity.

Teachta McDonald said:

"I want to welcome the fact that the Assembly has met today following yesterday's historic decision by the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle to re-enter the north's power-sharing institutions.

"This has been long and oftentimes frustrating process, but we have arrived at a situation where significant progress has been made in respect of the delivery of citizens rights - including a wide-ranging Irish Language Act - legacy issues, reform of the political institutions, strategies to tackle poverty and sectarianism, wide-ranging reforms to public services, as well as major infrastructural investment. 

"This is a historic day, but the real work starts now. 

"The first items on the agenda of the Executive have to be to address issues facing the health service and to deliver pay parity for health workers, as well as to begin implementation of Irish language legislation.

"Our team of Ministers that will drive forward delivery of what has been agreed in the Executive are:

  • deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill MLA
  • Minister for Finance Conor Murphy MLA
  • Minister for Communities Deirdre Hargey MLA
  • Junior Minister in the Executive Office Declan Kearney MLA

"John O'Dowd MLA has been appointed as Chief Whip and Assembly group leader.

"I also want to sincerely congratulate Alex Maskey MLA on his election as Ceann Comhairle of the Assembly. Alex is one of Sinn Féin's longest serving public representatives and he will bring a great deal of experience and determination to the role.

"Notwithstanding that these members of our Assembly team have been tasked with specific responsibilities, it is the role of every Sinn Féin representative to work for the speedy implementation of what has been agreed and to work to move society forward. I have every confidence that our entire team will do that.

"There is no doubt there are serious challenges ahead for all of us, not least in combating the impacts of Tory austerity and the effects of Brexit, but Sinn Féin is about delivery and we are absolutely committed to making genuine power-sharing work.

"We will also continue to work tirelessly to deliver Irish reunification in the time ahead, to ensure that a referendum on Irish unity is delivered and that planning for Irish unity is advanced."

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Go raibh maith agat a Cheann Comhairle.

This is a defining moment for politics here.

From today the parties represented in this chamber undertake to cooperate in every way we can in order to rebuild public trust and confidence in, and engagement with, this Assembly and its Executive.

Our mission must be to deliver on health, education and jobs for everyone across the whole community.

I see no contradiction in declaring and delivering on our firm commitment to power sharing with unionism in the Stormont Assembly while also initiating a mature and inclusive debate about new political arrangements which examine Ireland’s future beyond Brexit.

Similarly, there is no contradiction in unionism working the existing constitutional arrangements while taking its rightful place in the conversation about what a new Ireland would look like. 

We can do this while maintaining our independent distinct political identities and working in the best interests of all of the people.

This is my firm commitment.

After three years without functioning institutions with the five parties forming the new Executive, it is my hope that we do so united in our determination to deliver a stable power-sharing coalition that works on the basis of openness, transparency and accountability, and in good faith and with no surprises.

I am honoured to follow in the footsteps of my dear friend and comrade Martin Mc Guinness taking up the position of deputy First Minister, and as joint head of Government I too pledge to follow the example of Martin by actively promoting reconciliation, and building bridges we can all cross to end sectarianism and bigotry.

Resistance to equality caused the Executive to fall.

A refusal to embrace citizens identity and rights left people frustrated, angered and divided.

This cannot be repeated.

Today we, each of us, are called on to lead.

To build common cause for a society that makes room for, and gives respect to, every citizen.

To deliver a power-sharing government that is truly grounded in fairness, inclusion.

And that has the courage to lead from the front in these times of change.

Our politics must embrace civic society - trade unions, voluntary/community sector, business, academia, farmers, business, churches, students - all must have a permanent place and space to advise, input and hold this Assembly and Executive to account.

We must work together to solve the problems facing this society.

We will apply the full powers and resources of the Executive and Assembly to address the major issues of the day facing those whom we all represent.

I welcome the historic official recognition of the Irish language in this State.

The guarantees for the language in law represents meaningful parity of esteem for the community from which I proudly come.

Also, that the equality, mutual respect and all-Ireland approaches enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement are being embraced, and that we deliver on the promises of 1998 to a new generation of our young people.

We have a basis in which to move forward in building a fair society and good government.

We will institute necessary reforms across the board in order to get things done, but also get things right in this new administration where we have shared values, and policy objectives set out in a new Programme for Government.

Yesterday nurses and healthcare workers had to take industrial strike action.

The Executive will move immediately settle the ongoing healthcare workers pay parity dispute for those workers.

The health service is in crisis and demands our urgent attention.

Waiting lists are unacceptable.

The health service needs reformed.

We have a big job to do.

As we face into the great uncertainties of Brexit, it is imperative that we redouble our efforts to develop and rebuild a modern, competitive and sustainable economy where we open doors to trade, investment, tourism and jobs.

We need decent jobs, that value workers and protect their rights.

We need to improve our competitiveness through investing in our public services and infrastructure.

To conclude,

As we approach the centenary of partition let’s not refight battles of the past.

It is time to bring people together.

We can open doors and,

We can let this future in.

We must give people hope and our young people opportunity.

It is my sincere hope that 2020 is a time of real change which reinvents the optimism and hope we have experienced before, but our young people have not. 

It is time now for parties to have courage, as we choose hope over fear and enter a new era of politics in this society.

I wish all members, particularly new MLAs the very best in the time ahead and welcome and congratulate those appointed Ministers into Government.

We have two years, let’s make a difference.

Go raibh maith agaibh

 

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Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey has been elected as Speaker of the Assembly at today's sitting in Stormont. 

Speaking in the Assembly to nominate Alex Maskey, Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O'Neill said: 

"It is my pleasure to nominate my friend and colleague Alex Maskey for the position of Speaker of the Assembly. 

"Alex Maskey is someone whose professionalism, dedication and commitment has embodied his involvement in politics for decades. 

"Alex served as the first Sinn Féin councillor on Belfast City Council, and later as the first Republican mayor in the history of Belfast, and in both roles he showed his willingness and ability to represent all citizens equally. 

"A tireless and fearless advocate of those most in need in our society, Alex had always provided a voice for everyone. 

"As a key figure in the negotiations leading to the Good Friday Agreement, and in subsequent negotiations, Alex has demonstrated a commitment to encouraging dialogue and discussion. 

"Serving as a committee chair, he provided a platform for debate, getting business done and maintaining order showing no fear or favour to anyone. 

"Alex Maskey will bring his enormous experience to the position of Speaker and will act at all times with determined professionalism and impartiality."

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has welcomed the inclusion in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement, reached in the negotiations to re-establish the political institutions in the North, of a commitment from the British government to provide additional financial support for infrastructure projects, including Narrow Water Bridge.

The Louth TD also welcomed the commitment from the Irish government to “update and enhance its commitment to jointly funding cross-border investment” ... to “achieve greater connectivity on this island ...”

The Irish government said it is “also ready to jointly progress consideration of options for the development of the Narrow Water bridge project at the NSMC (North South Ministerial Conference).”

Teachta Adams said:

“Sinn Féin has consistently supported the construction of a bridge at Narrow Water connecting Louth and south Down/south Armagh. We have raised it as an objective in each of the negotiations that have occurred in the North in recent years. We did so again during the current negotiations.

"Its enormous economic potential and community benefits are obvious.

"It would link An Area of Outstanding Beauty in counties Armagh and Down with a Special Area of Conservation and Protection on the county Louth side.

"It is located roughly half-way between the two largest centres of population on the island of Ireland.

"Almost a quarter of visitors to Ireland go walking.

"The European cycle market is worth €54 billion.

"And the Narrow Water Bridge can create an attraction to rival the Mayo Greenway.

"In the new Agreement achieved between the two governments and the parities in the North the British government is committing to a range of financial and economic measures. One of these is ‘turbocharging infrastructure delivery’.

"The agreement states that: 'The executive will benefit from increased funding for capital infrastructure investment as a result of the UK Government’s infrastructure revolution.” It goes on the state that this “infrastructure funding will enable the Executive to invest in a range of potential capital projects'. Among those listed is Narrow Water Bridge.

"For this project to succeed the Irish government has to invest directly in the construction of the bridge and to work with the Executive in the North, Louth County Council and the British government to ensure that the long held vision of a bridge at Narrow Water is turned into a reality.”

Cllr Ruairí Ó Murchú said:

“Louth County Council has long supported a bridge at Narrow Water. It is a vital piece of infrastructure for the whole of the Mourne, Gullion and Cooley region. It would enhance business and investment opportunities, create jobs and strengthen the tourism potential of the area.

"The need for the bridge is well recognised. An Oireachtas Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation committee reported that it is essential to the economic development of the region and the Fresh Start Agreement in the North mandated the Northern Executive and the Irish Government to review and develop the project. We now need, on the back of this Agreement, the Irish government to work closely with Louth County Council and other stakeholders in advancing the construction of the Narrow Water Bridge.”


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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said:

Lá stairiúil atá ann. Ghlac Ard Chomhairle Shinn Féin cinneadh chun dul isteach sa Tionól agus sa rialtas. 

The Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle met today and has taken the decision to re-enter the power sharing institutions and to nominate ministers to the power sharing Executive.

We believe that the changes which have been achieved in the negotiations over the last year, build on what was agreed in February 2018, and involve some very significant advances including:

·      An Acht Gaeilge – with official, legal recognition of the Irish language for the first time, an Irish language Commissioner and increased Irish language funding.  And I commend all the Irish language organisations and activists involved in the campaign with a special commendation to the young people of An Dream Dearg.

·      Legislation on the Stormont House Agreement to be brought forward within 100 days.

·      Reform of the Petition of Concern to try and end its misuse as a veto by one party.

·      Key measures to ensure transparency and accountability to prevent corruption and bad practice and to implement the recommendations arising from the RHI Inquiry.

·      Strategies to tackle poverty, sectarians. And plan to put objective need at the heart of the Program for Government,

·      Finance to start to repair the damage of Tory austerity and help deal with the crisis in our health service including a commitment to settle the health service strike, an action plan on waiting lists, implementing the Bengoa recommendations on health and social care and a mental health action plan within two months and the medical school at Magee.

·      There are also a range of proposals to support our teachers and improve education provision, welfare mitigations to be extended beyond March 2020, proposals on workers’ rights and climate change, investment in stadia including Casement Park and ending regional imbalance.

There has also been progress on other issues in recent times including reproductive rights and marriage equality, as a result of mass mobilisations on the streets.  It was a key demand that citizens in this jurisdiction enjoy the same rights as citizens elsewhere on these islands.

I reject in the strongest possible terms the British government commitments to the DUP on flags and other issues.  These are not part of this agreement. Indeed they fly in the face of the Good Friday Agreement and are bad faith.  It is disappointing that the Irish government acquiesced to these measures.

We have a basis to restore power sharing, we are up for that. There is no doubt there are serious challenges ahead – the impact of Brexit, austerity and a range of other issues.   

The biggest and most significant challenge will be ensuring that we have genuine power sharing based on equality, respect and integrity.  

I believe that the power sharing government can work. That requires everyone to step up. Sinn Féin’s  commitment is to do all in our power to make this happen.

At these historic times we will also continue to work for Irish re-unification and ensuring that the criteria for the triggering of an Irish Unity poll are set out and that the planning for unity is stepped up, including the convening of a national forum to discuss and plan the future.

Three years ago Martin McGuinness set down a challenge to all of us to get it right and to deliver for all.

We now need to get to work."

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has said that the State must ensure that patients are discharged into safe and secure settings after reports that an 81 year old woman, who appeared to be homeless, was found wandering the streets of Dublin last night after being discharged from hospital.

Speaking this afternoon, Teachta O’Reilly said:

“The reports that an elderly woman, who appeared to be homeless, was found wandering the streets of Dublin haven been discharged from hospital are worrying and distressing.

“For a number of years now many housing and homeless campaigners have been highlighting the issue of patients being discharged with 'no fixed abode' calling for the State to ensure that patients are discharged into safe and secure settings where their specific needs can be met.

“This is an issue which I have raised many times and before Christmas I submitted Parliamentary Questions to the Minister for Health on the matter.

“The response from the Minister and the HSE showed that in 2018, the most up to date figures, there were 377 patients discharged with “no fixed abode”.

“This is very worrying in itself, but even more so given it is up on the 2017 number which was 343.

“From data I have received from the HSE over the years the number of patients discharged into “no fixed abode’ since 2011 are as follows:

2011 – 226

2012 – 247

2013 – 232

2014 – 448

2015 – 435

2016 – 335

2017 – 343

2018 – 377

“These figures are shocking, but I know from speaking to experts that the numbers are much higher than that as many homeless people will give an old address or the address of a hostel where they are staying.

“The reality is that health needs have to be addressed in tandem with housing.

“We need a coordinated approach where people get the healthcare they need, the right supports when they exit the healthcare system, but also proper housing supports.

“You cannot treat someone’s health needs only to discharge them onto the street, inevitably their problems will recur and escalate because they do not have a roof over their head.”

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has called on the Central Bank to be given the power to cap mortgage interest rates, after it released statistics showing that mortgage interests rates were more than twice the European average.

Teachta Doherty wrote to the Governor of Central Bank on Wednesday 20th November requesting an investigation into the practice of dual pricing in the mortgage market. The Central Bank refused his request. 

This comes after Deputy Doherty drew attention to the practice in the insurance market, with the Central Bank since agreeing to investigate the practice and its impact on loyal and vulnerable consumers.

Speaking today, the Donegal TD said:

“Statistics published by the Central Bank show that the weighted average interest rate in November stood at 3.01 per cent - more than half the Euro-zone average. 

"The data showed the average interest rate on variable rate mortgages standing at 3.22 per cent.

"What is clear is that Irish banks are charging mortgage-holders considerably more than their European counterparts, despite enjoying profitability.

“The Deputy Governor of the Central Bank recently admitted that Irish banks have recognised they can be profitable while charging new customers mortgage interest rates of between 2 and 3 percent, but persist in charging existing customers in the region of 4.5 percent.

“On Wednesday 20th November I requested an investigation into the practice of banks overcharging existing customers on their mortgage interest rates. The Central Bank refused the request.

"The Central Bank must become more proactive in protecting mortgage-holders, and the State should give them power to do so.

"In 2015 I introduced legislation that would have given the Central Bank temporary powers to cap mortgage interest rates. While this Bill was defeated in the Dáil in 2015 by the Fine Gael and Labour, we believe such a measure is necessary.

"Sinn Féin would give the Central Bank the power to follow its words with actions and cap mortgage interests rates applied by the big players in our mortgage market."

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Sinn Féin Education spokesperson and TD for Cork South-Central Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has called on the Minister for Communications to progress the Digital Safety Commissioner Bill of 2017 in the interest of Child Protection

 Teachta Ó Laoghaire said;

“It is two years since the Digital Safety Commissioner Bill passed Second Stage in the Dáil, but since then it has sat on the Minister for Communications shelf gathering dust.

“Online safety for children has been branded the child protection issue of our time by bodies such as the ISPCC, the Ombudsman for Children, and Ireland's Special Rapporteur on Child Protection.

“To date the Government have been very slow to act on this issue; this despite some very positive soundings from Minister Bruton in recent months.

“I understand the publication of the Heads of an Online Safety Bill is imminent, and I would welcome that that step has been taken.

“However, it is apparent that the Government would not have moved in this direction except for the passing of the Digital Safety Commissioner Bill which I proposed, and because of the pressure of organisation such as the ISPCC and Cybersafe Ireland.

“Publishing a Bill of this kind weeks before an election is far too late. My Digital Safety Commissioner Bill is already passed second stage, and has the support of the Communications Committee but is being blocked by Government.

“The Minister, in not progressing my Bill, and proceeding with his own, is in effect resetting the clock on an issue that is time sensitive.

“The reality is that we face into an election in the coming weeks, and that any new Bill will fall on the conclusion of this Government.

“Given my own Bill has already begun the process of going through the relevant stages I think it is both practical and efficient to proceed with it.

“I have offered to meet with the Minister to discuss this issue, an offer which has yet to be taken up, but I am happy to meet with him in the coming weeks.

“I acknowledge that the Bill as it stands is not perfect, nor is it a panacea, but it will go a significant way in addressing the concerns of child protection experts in the area.

“I am also open to discussing any amendments that will improve the Bill.

“I believe it is essential that the Minister progresses this Bill as a matter of urgency in the interests of creating a more positive online sphere, and in particular provide protection for children.”

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Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew has expressed her condolences following the death of a man in an accident in The Rock, Tyrone. 

The Fermanagh South Tyrone MP said: 

"There is shock and sadness in the local community following the death of popular Dungannon man in a tragic accident in The Rock, Tyrone.

"It is understood the man was working on a roof when the accident occurred.

"My thoughts go to the family and friends of this man at this sad and tragic time."

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Speaking after the publication of the text by the two governments tonight, Uachtarán Shinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald TD said:

"The governments have chosen to publish this text which we have received in the last hour. 

"We are studying the text and will give it careful consideration. 

"The Sinn Féin Ard Comhairle will meet tomorrow to fully assess it."

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Deputy Louise O’Reilly, has described the revelation that a patient at University Hospital Limerick was found dead beside his hospital trolley with a broken neck as shocking and distressing.

Teachta O’Reilly said there can be no delay in the investigation, or publication of findings, into the man’s death and Minister Harris should make an immediate public statement on the matter.

Teachat O’Reilly said:

“The news being reported today that a patient was found dead with a broken neck, on the ground, next to his hospital trolley, in the Emergency Department of University Hospital Limerick is incredibly shocking and distressing.

“The State must ensure that all the necessary services which may be needed by the deceased’s family are made available at this extremely difficult time.

“I am also calling on Minister Harris to make an immediate public statement on the matter.

“The health service must ensure that resources are made available so that there is no delay in the investigation or the publication of its findings.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile has welcomed news that an Oireachtas exhibition celebrating the centenary of An Chead Dáil will travel to Belfast and Derry in the coming weeks. 

Speaking today Senator Ó Donnghaile welcomed the news saying;

“I am glad to see this exhibition travel northwards and allow people here the opportunity to see it. 

“An Chéad Dáil was a national exercise in democracy and self determination. 

“It impacted and reflected all corners of Ireland and Irish life and it is only right that this exhibition, which has been displayed in Dublin, Cork and Galway already, comes to Belfast and Derry.” 

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